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Outstanding Young Farmers display drive toward excellence

Alice Guthrie Published on 31 January 2014
Kinsman family farm

Windcrest Farm Ltd., located near Berwick, Nova Scotia, is only a 10-minute drive from the Bay of Fundy.

The homestead was established by Earl Kinsman as a mixed farm after he returned from service during World War II. His son, Lindsay, took over the farm in the mid ’70s, and during his time at the helm, the farm changed to a dairy operation.

James, Lindsay’s son, is now the operator. He joined his father on the farm in 2001 following time at Nova Scotia Agriculture College, where he took agriculture business courses while playing Junior A hockey.

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Kinsman familyJames also met his wife, Amanda, during this time. She has a master of education degree and teaches, helping on the farm when she is able. The couple has twin daughters, Alexis and Brooke, who turned 3 in December.

When James returned home, the family was milking about 100 cows, using a very old, crammed tiestall barn.

James took over full management in 2006 and bought his dad out in 2008, although Lindsay is still active on the farm. James says the arrangement is working out very well.

In 2008, he built a new facility utilizing a double-10 herringbone parlour and a fabric-covered, steel-framed freestall barn with 180 sand-bedded stalls.

His goal in 2009 – to fill this barn in five years – was accomplished in only three years. All the new buildings, including the parlour, were made with future expansion in mind.

The parlour is designed to double in size and the barn space to triple. This is the future goal, but these plans are on hold pending purchase of quota, a commodity not easily found right now.

James has focused his efforts on efficiency, high milk production and growth in the dairy herd. He now milks 190 registered Holstein cows three times a day and maintains about 400 head of stock in total.

He sells some breeding stock, mostly short bred or open heifers for export, most recently to the Ukraine. Some lactating cows are also sold, mostly locally within the Maritimes.

Milking cows in the morning

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In 2011, Windcrest earned a Dairy Farmers of Nova Scotia Excellence Award for 10 years of high-quality production. “We pride ourselves on not only production but in making sure that production is of high quality.

It is very important that we put a quality product out the door for the consumer,” James states.

He accomplishes this by, “Attention to detail ... we’re particular with mastitis treatment ... keeping cows clean and comfortable.” He pays attention to every aspect of a cow’s life, from birth onwards.

James also credits his help. “Excellent staff – we wouldn’t be where we are without them,” he claims, adding, “Quality people are key.”

The farm hires three full-time employees, who between them manage cows, baby calves, milking, feeding and fieldwork. James is responsible for management, milking in the morning, fresh cow milking, some field work and whatever comes along that needs his attention.

When James first joined his father, they only grew enough crops for the herd’s needs, cropping 300 to 400 acres. They grew alfalfa for silage and timothy hay.

By 2008, their forage needs – and their acreage – had doubled. More recently, a stagnant dairy quota market has encouraged James to branch out into grain farming.

In 2010, he added more acreage and now works 2,000 acres. He grows corn and wheat, which is sold locally to feed mills. He also grows soybeans, which are exported to Asia through Halifax Harbour.

James has high standards for his business, his goal being, “Highest level possible in every way.” He wants to achieve a position in the industry that will give the next generation the ability to compete and be successful.

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He feels that size and efficiency of business will be a large factor in the future. This drive towards excellence prompted his bank manager to nominate James and Amanda to Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmer program, Atlantic Region, last year.

The competition was held in March in Moncton, New Brunswick; James says he felt fortunate to win. He recalls he had to submit a paper detailing life on the farm, every aspect of the business and his community involvement and activities.

In mid-November, the couple competed in the national event in Regina with couples from across Canada.

“The whole experience for us has just been amazing – met great people,” he said enthusiastically, adding, “Can’t say enough about the program ... it’s been awesome.”

The event in Regina, Saskatchewan, required a more intense presentation, and there were two winners, James and Amanda, and a grain farmer from Alberta working 10,000 acres.

For community involvement, James, a former 4-H’er himself, supports 4-H by providing calves for several young people. He enjoys having the young people around.

He is on the board of directors for his local arena, and on a sub-committee of the board of Dairy Farmers of Nova Scotia. This committee meets three times per year to discuss issues and policy.

“Family is very important to us,” James states. His two young daughters are involved in a local Ringette program, to learn to skate. Future community involvement will depend on where the girls’ interests lie as they get older.

In the meantime, the couple enjoys entertaining family and friends. James gives credit to Amanda for this, but adds, “We built a big house, and we like to fill it.”  PD

Alice Guthrie is a freelance writer from Hagersville, Ontario.

PHOTOS
PHOTO 1: Since returning to the family farm, James Kinsman has nearly doubled the size of the dairy and grown its cropland by five-fold, branching into grain farming.

PHOTO 2: James and Amanda Kinsman were recently named winners of Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmer program. They are pictured here with their two daughters, Alexis (left) and Brooke (right).

PHOTO 3: While milking cows in the morning, James Kinsman is joined by his twin daughters. Photos courtesy of the Kinsman family.

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